Community and city voices discussed racial justice and healing at the first National Day of Racial Healing Dialogue, held on Jan. 21.
The event was hosted by the Kingfisher Institute for the Liberal Arts and Professions, Creighton’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, and the Omaha Community Council for Racial Justice and Reconciliation as part of the university’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.
“The conversations we’ve been having here today are long overdue for Creighton University,” said Charise Alexander Adams, the program planner for the Kingfisher Institute.
Barry Thomas, the Omaha Public Schools director of equity and diversity, led the discussion, asking each small group to focus on four main ideas that work towards racial justice and reconciliation: access and opportunity, pursuing diversity, building efficacy and social responsibility.
“We need the process of truth-telling as part of the healing process for the members of the community that have been harmed by either the practices or perceptions of the university that have perpetuated themselves over the years and for the folks that grew up in North Omaha and saw, real or imagined, that Creighton was not for them,” Adams said.
All were asked to consider the barriers that exist that have historically limited or are currently limiting the achievement and success of marginalized people, how institutions celebrate diversity, and whether or not staff and stakeholders are invested in the values expressed by an institution.
Former city council member Franklin Thompson, who now works in the mayor’s office on human rights and relations, said that this day of conversation was important for Creighton.
“We now see that surface-level ‘Kumbaya’ feel-good has not worked. You can feel good, and then when the problems come—the real harsh problems of real life come—then we’re shocked, and we say, well, why haven’t we progressed a little bit more?” Thompson said. “Days like this help us to peel back the layers of an onion, per se, and then you start looking at root causes as opposed to symptoms.”
The campus had events celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. throughout the week, including the Unity Prayer Luncheon, the Student Recognition Ceremony and “24th & Glory” Past, Present and Beyond.